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How to Encrypt a Mac Laptop

Why should people encrypt their laptops? Well for starters the FBI reports that 97% of laptops that were reported stolen were never returned to their owner.

In order to assure that your sensitive data is secure it’s important to encrypt your laptop.

In the event that your laptop is damaged or’s important to back up your data on an external hard drive.

Now it’s time to encrypt your MacBook…

Mac laptops running OS X Lion 10.7 and above have a useful encryption tool built-in: File Vault 2. This system automatically encrypts files saved to the Mac laptop’s internal hard disk, making it impossible for unauthorized users to read those files. Here’s what’s involved in encrypting Mac laptops using File Vault 2:

  • Partition the disk. The hard disk must be appropriately partitioned with Lion’s Recovery HD partition. Check this by rebooting your Mac and holding the Option key. Check Startup Manager to see if Recovery HD is found. If not, you may need to repartition your drive – a labor intensive process that requires backing up your data, erasing and repartitioning the drive, reinstalling the operating system, restoring your data, and restoring your apps.

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  • Enable File Vault. Once the correct partitioning has been confirmed, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy. Click the File Vault tab and enter a password by clicking the padlock icon. From there, click Turn on File Vault and set up user accounts and passwords.
  • Store your “recovery” key. File Vault will issue a recovery key which is a long series of numbers and letters. Make a copy of this key and store it in a safe place. Alternately, you can have Apple store it for you. If you forget your password, you can decrypt the drive using this recovery key. If you forget your password and lose the recovery key, you’ll be locked out for good!
  • Encrypt the files. This is a time consuming process that begins with restarting your computer. The encryption process takes place in the background, allowing you to use your Mac if desired.

What if you don’t have OS X Lion 10.7 or above? Older Macs running Panther use File Vault 1 while Leopard and Snow Leopard use sparse bundle disk images. Third party disk encryption tools are also available specifically for Mac computers iforgot apple and laptops (Source: File Encryption by WinMagic). For those looking to encrypt their Mac laptops at an enterprise level, WinMagic’sSecureDoc for Mac, is the industry leader in full disk encryption.

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